Spinning luxury with Judith MacKenzie

The magic of Judith


Judith sharing the wonders
of bison fiber.


Spinning tussah silk.

Judith hands on with an alpaca fleece.

I remember the first time I met Judith MacKenzie. I was an intern at Schacht Spindle Company, in Boulder, Colorado, and was at a dinner at Maggie Casey's house. Judith was visiting Colorado, and Barry and Jane asked her to try out the Schacht version of the Reeves Wheel (which was still in development) before dinner started. Nearly eight years later, I don't remember many details of the night, but I vividly remember the magic of watching Judith spin. She sat down at the wheel and ran it through its paces. She started with itty-bitty super-fine yarn and worked up to very lofty bulky yarn all by turning knobs and adjusting the tension. She had such a gentle mastery and calm way of going about things—I wasn't a spinner at the time and didn't know Judith, but I definitely could tell she knew spinning.

I recently watched Judith's latest video from Interweave, Spinning Luxury Fiber, and got the same feeling. In the video, Judith, with her calm mastery, goes over a variety of luxury fibers (divided into three groups: silk, camelids, and undercoats). She gives the background and biology of a selection of fibers from each category, going over what makes good-quality fiber and what to avoid—definitely good things to know when purchasing fiber. She then prepares and spins each sample. As a new spinner, I watched this with rapt attention. The information about the fibers themselves is fascinating, but being able to see them being spun with all the subtle differences really got me excited. Also, seeing the results from different preparations and spinning methods helped me finally understand the distinction between worsted and woolen spinning. She shows common errors, what they look like, how to avoid them, and how to fix them (when possible). Another great part is that she creates her samples with an end use in mind and gives both knitting and weaving examples of what the yarns could be used for.

Besides going into the basics (and even blending and some novelty techniques) on how to get wonderful yarns from a wide variety of luxury fibers, Judith also shares great general information about how fibers behave as well as tips and tricks she's picked up—I know many of these will come in handy for me. For example, she gives three different examples (lemon juice, sugar and olive oil, and a liquid-silk detangling product called Cowboy Magic) of things you can put on your hands so the fibers don't get caught on rough skin. I am really glad that videos like this exist, so everyone can be as lucky as I and experience the magic of Judith.

Spin on,

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